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TV Series Review

The biggest lie in storytelling? Two words: The End.

Stories don't end, really. Not as long as the protagonists have breath in their lungs. Luke Skywalker brought down the Empire but became a bitter old dude. A post-Voldemort Harry Potter grew up and had kids, and he's probably taken up coin collecting.

The kids from 1984's Karate Kid? They grew up, too. Their stories didn't end when Daniel LaRusso planted a heel in bully Johnny Lawrence's face. They went on, well after the movie's credits finished rolling. And maybe the most important parts of their respective stories are still to come.

Read On, Read Off …

It's been 34 years since Daniel and Johnny squared off in 1984's All Valley Under-18 Karate Championship. From that pivotal moment, their lives diverged radically.

Daniel leveraged his underdog victory, as well as his newfound confidence in his own abilities, to propel himself to modest fame and fortune—mostly as the cheesy spokesman/owner of his own line of car dealerships. "We kick the competition!" he bellows in his late-night TV spots, thwacking on-screen prices to oblivion with a quick karate chop or two.

Johnny has watched those ads and nursed a grudge for four decades now. Forget black belts: The only belts he cares about these days are the ones dished out by a bottle.

That could've been "The End" for Johnny, I suppose. He could've spent the rest of his life drinking beer and watching old '80s movies. But when his crusty stepfather hands Johnny a check so that he'll never have to see him again, and when a teen neighbor begs Johnny to teach him how to defend himself, the one-time karate kingpin decides to open his own dojo and reboot his own past. He calls the dojo Cobra Kai, just like the one he grew up in. The ink on the lease is barely dry before Johnny spray-paints its old motto on the wall: "Strike first. Strike hard. No mercy."

Yessir. Daniel may be king of the valley now, what with those crisp suits and hoity-toity car dealerships and his pwecious wittle famiwy. And maybe they're both a little too old to engage in a bruising rematch. But Johnny's still got some moves. He's got pupils to teach his own brand of karate. And as Daniel's family and Johnny's young protégés grow ever more entwined, Johnny and Daniel both know how to land punches where they hurt the most.

Forget the gentle "wax on, wax off" philosophy Daniel learned from his old sensei, Mr. Miyagi. In Cobra Kai, it's not about the wax: It's all about the whacks.

Out of Balance?

The original Karate Kid was relatively innocent and pretty inspirational—a PG film that inspired a generation of kids to flood their local mall-based dojos (and maybe even paint their parents' fences).

Cobra Kai is the first real high-profile show from YouTube's subscription-based addendum YouTube Red (which has released this show’s first, and now second, season). But it isn't aimed at young viewers like the original was. At least, let's hope not. Just as the show focuses on the now-50-year-old Johnny and Daniel, the content is pretty adult, too.

The s-word flies more often than karate kicks, with plenty of other milder profanities landing blow after blow. The show's sexual content also is more in-your-face than you might expect: Daniel's high school-age daughter, Samantha, is subject to sexual harassment and assault. And when she rebuffs her quasi-boyfriend's advances, she becomes the subject of ugly and graphic rumors at school. Drinking and drug use land on the screen, too.

And naturally, Cobra Kai has some violent moments. I mean, it is a show predicated, at least in part, on beating people up. And sometimes, even characters we ostensibly root for have moments where they're just plain mean.

Ironically, though, it's in the wake of those difficult moments that Cobra Kai, like its characters, finds a certain measure of redemption.

Cobra Kai is, after all, a story about folks trying to find their way to Mr. Miyagi's mystical sense of balance, to find the middle way between being a pushover and being a world-class jerk. Everyone here, from oldsters Johnny and Daniel to their troubled pupils and offspring, is searching for redemption and meaning. Some tap into past hope and past sins, even as some of those hopes and those sins are passed on to another generation. YouTube's show does more than simply play off Gen X nostalgia: It has a story of its own it wants to tell. Several, really.

But while those stories may have merit, they also come with problematic content aplenty. And that can make Cobra Kai a more difficult dojo to deal with than the original.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

April 25, 2019: “Mercy Part II”
Cobra Kai: May 2, 2018 "Ace Degenerate"



Readability Age Range





William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence; Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso; Xolo Maridueña as Miguel; Tanner Buchanan as Robby Keene; Courtney Henggeler as Amanda LaRusso; Joe Seo as Kyler; Mary Mouser as Samantha LaRusso; Jacob Bertrand as Eli; Jacob Bertrand as Hawk; Nichole Brown as Aisha; Martin Kove as John Kreese




YouTube Red


Record Label




On Video

Year Published


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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